A swarm of 20 drones has completed the largest military exercise of its kind in the UK, according to the Ministry of Defence.

The exercise was the culmination of Dstl’s ‘Many Drones Make Light Work’ competition, funded under the MoD’s Science and Technology Portfolio through the ‘Defence and Security Accelerator’.

Following 2 earlier phases, the £2.5 million contract for Phase 3 was awarded in January 2019.

This was reportedly for an Integrated Concept Evaluation activity to explore the technical feasibility and military utility of a swarm of up to 20 small UAVs operating collaboratively.

The swarm consisted of 5 different types and sizes of fixed wing drones, with different operational capabilities, together with 6 different payload types, flying representative tasks at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria.

“Three operators in Blue Bear’s Mobile Command and Control System (MCCS) managed the entire swarm whilst simultaneously handling different, collaborative payload analysis tasks. The UAVs flew simultaneous Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) cooperative tasks, with Blue Bear collaborative autonomy ensuring they all contributed to overall mission goals.”

Throughout the 2 weeks of trials, more than 220 sorties were undertaken.

The Dstl Project Technical Authority was quoted as saying:

“Dstl has been driving research in autonomous systems across different platforms and domains for many years. This is a significant step forward in our understanding of the capabilities of swarming drones and has been achieved through excellent collaboration across the MOD and with a number of small and medium enterprise partners. This 18 month collaboration has resulted in the demonstration of an operationally relevant capability and will inform and de-risk future choices and decisions about swarming drone capability.”

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I think this is the first proper trial of a military drone swarm and certainly the first of a mixed drone fleet with different sensors. The only other trial I am aware of was the US Navy in 2016 dropping 103 Perdix microdrones from the flare cannisters of three aircraft and then flying in formation like display drones to photograph the ground with their low res cameras.


Those are things that the public is aware of. Plenty of stuff goes on in the black world, especially in the U.S. that doesn’t get publicized. You can bet the U.S. has gone far beyond that 2016 trail…..


Kinda depends if the 2016 trial was a success and it it demonstrated actual capability and not just something that looks cool on TV.

Daniele Mandelli

I can believe this. The “Black budget” for DoD ( including NSA and NRO activity ) is greater than most nations entire defence budgets.
It’s fascinating stuff and the “White World” is said to be 20 years behind, maybe more.


Whilst this is true, there are equally dark projects underway in other States. Some are accelerating at an incredible pace.

Martyn Parker

We will see a return to flak cannons to combat drone swarms? I can’t imagine much else would work


Jammers? Airburst EMP? Made the last one up. I think you might be right. Like going back in time

john melling

Unfortunately, EMP would knock out a wide area including “friendly” forces


Yeah. Unless directed energy emps are a thing that could be invented? Clutching at straws here

Captain P Wash

Barrage Balloon’s maybe ? !


Longer range shotgun shells?


The drones are unlikely to be big enough to carry enough fuel to provide the same range as the host jet, which means the easiest way is to intercept the jet itself at sufficient range.


Yes but…. We are buying the latest Chinese Batteries, They will last at least 3 miles……


Mass “Kamikaze” drones homing in on theirs….

john melling

Battlefield MacDonalds delivery service is getting closer 🙂

Ryan Brewis

So are we going to be developing and building the drones ourselves or buying other nation’s drones?